The Air Force has affirmed the religious rights of a colonel who claimed he was wrongly disciplined for refusing to sign a certificate of appreciation for the same-sex spouse of one of his airmen last year.
The Air Force said that Col. Leland Bohannon “had the right to exercise his sincerely held religious beliefs and did not unlawfully discriminate when he declined to sign the certificate,” according to a letter sent Monday by Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson to members of Congress who supported Bohannon.
The Air Force Review Boards Agency granted Bohannon’s appeal, Wilson said in her letter, noting his records would be corrected.
In May, Bohannon was asked to sign a certificate for a retiring master sergeant in his command, including a “certificate of spouse appreciation,” according to the appeal letter First Liberty Institute sent to the Air Force on behalf of Bohannon.
While Bohannon readily signed each document for the retiring airman, he chose not to sign the “optional, unofficial” spouse appreciation certificate “similar to a bouquet of flowers,” the appeal letter said. The colonel believed that doing so would “signify his personal endorsement of the same-sex marriage,” which conflicted with his religious beliefs, First Liberty said.
Bohannon sought a religious accommodation that would excuse him from signing the letter, the institute said. That request was later returned “without action.” In the meantime, however, a two-star general agreed to sign the letter in Bohannon’s place.
When the retiring master sergeant found out that Bohannon did not personally sign the spouse certificate, he filed an Equal Opportunity complaint, alleging the colonel unlawfully discriminated against him on the basis of his sexual orientation.
The Air Force substantiated the airman’s allegations, and Bohannon was subsequently removed from command and for consideration for promotion. He appealed the decision in October.
First Liberty described Bohannon as "a devout Christian" whom "adheres to the basic Christian belief that marriage is between one man and one woman."
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Reported by: Stars and Stripes